One thing I love about WoW is the challenge of attempting to solo group content. With the Lunar Festival in full swing, it seemed to be a good time to dust off the old solo'ing skills.
The festival requires players to visit 13 NPC's in 5-man instances, 7 of whom are in new Northrend instances. While I certainly could attempt to do all seven of those over the next two weeks, that's a lot of quality time to spend in PUG's (espec Heroic dungeon PUG's, since there's little good reason for me to run non-heroic PUG's at this point in my gear progression, I'd just mess with the group by being there with too much DPS). Could I cut some corners on that process?
Instances that CAN be soloed by a frost mage
FYI, I have a frost spec that stops short of Deep Freeze to go pick up Impact and Blast Wave, both of which make the already tough Frost Spec even better at soloing low level content. Then again, I do NOT have the [Glyph of Invisibility], which would have made the process a bit faster (and safer!). I was able to solo four of the seven Northrend Dungeon coins.
This place is full of level 70 mobs, which are grey, and thus easy to avoid, at level 80. First you can avoid or kill the NPC's in the opening hallway. Then you get to the round forge area, where you MUST kill the forgemaster NPC's to proceed. Though they do come in a pack of three mobs, they are melee only, so they were easy to take down with a Water Elemental in tow.
Once you're past the forge room, there's a room of dragon rider stables. I used invisibility to get past the group in the back of the room, and the group right behind them in the hallway, but it may be possible to walk past on foot. This puts you in the first boss room, but he and his minions won't aggro as you walk past. Next up, we have a mine-ish room with non-elite ghouls and geists, and a few wandering elite mobs. The non-elites were easy to burn down (I deliberately pulled the geists to get them out of the way), and the elites are easy to avoid.
From there it's up a flight of stairs into a towerish area with another pack of non-elite geists. The elder is in a niche off to the left (behind another group of elites that won't notice you walking by). I actually walked right past it and towards the second boss encounter before realizing that I'd gone too far and doubling back. If you get to the wargs (who can see through invisibility), you've gone too far.
I suspect that ANY class can solo this at 80 since, as with UK, the mobs are all grey. Walk north into the room with the dragon-popsicle and turn right into the hall of nature mobs. You're looking to dodge these guys and walk around a clockwise arc around to the Tree boss. It may help to pull the little wandering plants, as they only have 3.5K HP, and killing them when they aren't near anything else might save you from adds later.
While you're here, you might want to kill a crystal spider critter for achievement credit.
This was easy, but tedious, due to the need to wait for your invisibility cooldown repeatedly. It might be worth buying some [Invisibility Potion]'s from the AH so you don't need to bring a book to read while you wait.
I was able to solo the entire entrance hallway, up to the room with the zombies and the first boss, which saved me a fair chunk of time on corpse runs as I learned where it's safe to stop. This did involve the use of all my various cooldowns, fleeing for the instance zone line, and a few corpse runs, YMMV. If you can't take them, you'll have to invis down the hallway and up the stairs to the right, stopping before the doorway to the room of zombies where the boss lives. This might be pushing the duration of your invisibility buff if you don't have the glyph - try to take out at least the first pull (two melee zombies) first.
The next room has ghouls, abominations, and a big troll (the first boss) on top of the steps. Here you'll have to use invisibility (you have to avoid the abominations, even while invisible, because they have an AOE damage aura that breaks invisibility) to run up the stairs, through the boss, and right to the doorway, stopping before you go through. The doorway leads to a room of spiders - with a glyph, you might be able to run all the way through it from the boss room, but without it you're going to have to sit on your tail and wait. Once invisibility comes up again, invis and run into the second boss room. The boss doesn't aggro if you hug the wall on your right and run past, there's a door on the right into a room of bats.
Wait for your cooldown to come up again, go invisible, and take a left turn through the bat room. You'll be heading down a lengthy corridor, and you will want to make it through to the end of this corridor because there is a pat that you won't be able to see. At the end of the corridor, use your last seconds of invisibility to turn right and hide by the wall. Now you're standing outside the big dino pen. There are two raptor riders patroling this path, and the elder is at the end, slightly to the right at the entrance to the dino pen. You can either wait for your invis cooldown yet again, or sacrifice some combination of your water elemental and mirror images to the cause of holding aggro long enough for you to get your coin before you die.
This one is the highest level, and it will be very difficult to do if you can't clear the mobs at the start of the zone (a 3-pack containing a caster and two melee - sheep the caster so he doesn't chain lightning your elemental to death), a solo caster pat, and a pair of iron golems. This gets you to a circular crossroads area where you'll be heading right. I'm not sure if there actually is a safe place to have your invis expire in between the golems and the traffic circle of doom.
There are four separate patrols that matter to you - three mobs and a separate giant in front of your entrance to the big traffic circle, and another three mobs and a second giant that can move to block your path up the stairs to the right. It is possibile to avoid all of these pats with good timing and make it up to the stairs without wasting your invisibility cooldown, but you might find it easier to just stealth it. Ideally, you should be able to get to the mine shaft opening on the right before your invis wears off. When you appear, you'll be attacked by a number of non-elite shardlings, so be prepared to hit all your close range AOE buttons.
In front of you is a pack of three iron dwarves zapping the wall. I was NOT able to get past these guys without them aggroing, but I could, at least, hug the right wall and get a bit of a head start. This last stretch is the hard part, and the only place where I might have wanted the extra 10 seconds from the glyph. You need to run a kind of backwards S pattern to follow the path around the bend - the elder is just out of sight around the corner from you. I did this by abandoning my water elemental and mirror images to their fate when I suddenly reappeared in the middle of a group of mobs, and claiming my coin before I died - a more skilled mage than I might find a more elegant solution.
The dungeons you CANNOT solo
The remaining three Northrend coins, in Azjol-Nerub, Utgarde Pinnacle, and Gun'Drak, all require the defeat of at least one boss in their respective instances. In addition, the one in Gun'Drak MUST be done on Heroic mode, because the Elder is found in the room of the fifth, Heroic-only boss.
So, you're probably going to have to do these three instances the old fashioned way, in a group. The only loophole is that you can inherit a boss-less instance by borrowing a raidID from someone who has already cleared the dungeon that day. You'll still have to invis hop past the trash (which respawns), but it might be an alternative if you're REALLY having bad luck with the PUG's.
Lunar Festival Wrapup
Overall, I'm not expecting any problems finishing the Lunar Festival meta achievement. I was able to solo the four coins above, do a legitimate AN run, and use a borrowed ID and a small group to get the coin out of GD. One more instance in the next two weeks isn't a deal breaker, and the rest is just running around to collect the coins - I might have it done tonight, if the UP PUG's are so inclined.
I was a bit worried about having to PUG seven instances during a single event, especially since some are not that commonly run on heroic (the sad part of my DTK efforts is that I may end up doing that zone again on Heroic mode sooner rather than later anyway, since it's one of the four I need for Heroic Dungeonmaster, but at least now there's no time pressure). By the time I was able to take the pressure off a bit by soloing a couple (again, I think just about any class can probably do Nexus and UK, with at worst one invis potion each), the amount of work left turned out to be relatively reasonable.
In some ways, that's the mark of a good incentive - tough enough to require work and perhaps even creativity), but not so tough that it deters players from trying through sheer difficulty.